Elissa Olechnovich

Palate Pleasers

Loudoun is home to countless tasty treasures (and a short drive to many more). Join me for the blog that requires intense culinary research!

The PERFECT Crab Cake

Crab cakes. Scratch that, Maryland Crab Cakes! It seems like no matter where you go along the east coast, seafood restaurants are going to without a doubt offer their version of the famous Maryland Crab Cake. Let’s back up some…did you know that Old Bay Seasoning was developed in Baltimore MD in 1939 by a German immigrant named Gustav Brunn? And it was created to spice up crabs, which were so plentiful they were GIVEN AWAY, to encourage patrons to order more drinks (thank you Wikipedia)? So Old Bay, Crabs, Maryland…we are so close to it all in Loudoun. And being probably my favorite dish at a restaurant (I have never attempted to cook my own crab cake at home), I decided to go in search of the best crab cake in my home County. This blog would be too long if I reviewed every crab cake at every restaurant (remember – everyone serves them) so I am focusing on the following local eating establishments: Lowry’s Crab Shack in Hamilton,  Lightfoot Restaurant in Leesburg and Ford’s Fish Shack in Ashburn.

Lowry’s Crab Shack (http://lowrysfarmmarket.com/)
Located off Route 7 on the very western edge of the Town of Hamilton is Lowry’s. If you can’t make it to the beach, but want to feel like you are dining there, that’s Lowry’s. A generous outdoor eating area is a must (no matter the heat) as it enhances your “beach” feeling. The majority of food at Lowry’s is fried and the crab cakes are no exception. There is no remoulade in sight, but plenty of tarter sauce. The cakes are filled with a finely shredded crab and have a medium amount of filler (binder). Moderate seasoning allows the crab flavor to be dominant. They serve hushpuppies which is a huge plus in my books, but I’m still ranking this as #3 in my search. Their name likely comes from the whole Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab, their signature dish, so if you enjoy the satisfaction of shelling the fresh crustacean yourself – this is your place!

Lightfoot Restaurant (http://www.lightfootrestaurant.com)
The restaurant is housed in the former People’s National Bank (built in 1888). A dramatic renovation in 1999 brought the Romanesque Revival Style building back to life and gave it a whole new job: premier dining establishment in Loudoun. The gold accents, delicate fabric light fixtures, and the soaring ceilings adorned with lighthearted art work, all contribute to the unforgettable dining experience. Chef Ingrid has spent many hours perfecting her menu and the crab cake has received a lot of her attention. Large pieces of jumbo lump crab are glued together in some mysterious way. The perfect amount of seasoning enhances the crab taste to a level I have never experienced. The remoulade sauce was so tasty I considered eating it with a spoon, but elected to save it for the cake. Hands down, Lightfoot receives the Best Crab Cake award in my book (or blog)!

Ford’s Fish Shack (http://www.fordsfishshack.com)
A very popular eating establishment that can easily be overlooked (it lacks the kitchey beach ambiance of Lowry’s or the dramatic dining of Lightfoot) has locations both in Ashburn and South Riding. I dined at the Ashburn location on a Wednesday for lunch and the place was packed with workers on lunch break and others having a casual meal. The menu, true to it’s name, boasts an assortment of fresh fish and other seafood classics. The crab cake, fries and even cold slaw were reminiscent (or copy cats) of the same plate at Sweetwater Tavern. While I found the crab cake to be decently seasoned and filled with moderate sized lumps of crab and little filler, the lack of originality rubbed me the wrong way. I rank this crab cake in the middle at #2.

Other Loudoun restaurants I enjoy (that just happen to serve crab cakes) are Blue Ridge Grill in Leesburg & Brambleton, Sweetwater Tavern in Sterling and Grandale Restaurant in Neersville. Happy Eating!!

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